No looking back

It seems channel executives are starting to feel a little more bullish about their prospects

Tags: Channel developmentDubai World Trade CentreEconomic recoveryUnited Arab Emirates
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By  Andrew Seymour Published  October 25, 2009

While there were a number of notable absentees from last week's GITEX exhibition in Dubai, a good chunk of the region's channel community turned out in force to defy those who predicted that the financially-testing climate would put a dampener on proceedings.

The likes of Dell, Microsoft, Symantec and Epson all had a strong presence at this year's event, while Aptec, Mindware, Logicom and Westcon were some of the more high-profile names ensuring that the distribution sector was sufficiently represented.

Whatever the consensus on the volume of foot traffic and the noticeably empty spaces adorning areas of certain halls, the show provided an excellent opportunity to gauge the sentiment of a channel that has been through the mill this year.

Don't forget, it was at last year's GITEX when talk of the financial crisis first surfaced in the Middle East, although you wouldn't necessarily have known it, such was the reluctance of companies to acknowledge that it might have a negative impact on their business.

Fast forward 12 months and the mood and priorities of most exhibitors were markedly different. The downturn has clearly taken its toll, but it has also succeeded in injecting a sense of realism into the market expectations of companies providing IT products and services to the region.

The good news is that executives from the channel certainly seemed to be far more bullish about their regional business prospects than they were just two or three months back.

Nobody is naïve enough to think that the market is out of the woods yet, but there are signs that things are dramatically picking up.

Vendors and resellers I spoke to insist the project pipeline is starting to widen again, as postponed projects begin to come back online and budgets for the coming year bring with them a number of fresh opportunities.  

Off record, senior executives claim that credit is also returning to the market, kick-starting business that had dried up since the turn of the year. If the wheels of the market are to begin turning again, then the importance of available credit - both at channel and end-user level - cannot be underestimated.

It appears more and more likely that the market reached its nadir between the end of the second quarter and the start of the third quarter. But while the worst of it may be over, I doubt whether the full-scale revival that many predicted earlier this year will actually materialise.

It seems much more probable that the recovery will be slow and sure, requiring companies to build on any progress they make one month at a time. To be honest, it is difficult to see IT providers doing anything other than that given the ferocity of the downturn has left a mark on every industry sector going.

Looking back on some of the announcements made at GITEX, it is evident that an exceptionally strong appetite for regional channel growth still exists.

An abundance of IT vendors - supplying everything from PC accessories to high-end networking infrastructure - continue to scour the landscape for local distributors and agents, desperate to get a foothold in a market they believe offers as good a prospect for growth as anywhere else.

The path to recovery will be a long one, but hopefully for most channel players it has at least now begun.

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